Herbs are amazing allies to have when dealing with day to day stress. Whether it’s infrequent or chronic, herbs are here to soothe, calm, relax, and decompress even the most difficult stressful situations. So how do we use herbs for stress relief? Well first, we need to look a little bit deeper to understand which ones are best for certain needs.
How to Relieve Stress with Herbs and The Human Nervous System
The Human Nervous System
The human nervous system is a vast and complex network that controls and facilitates almost every function of our being. Our ability to move, feel, breathe, our sense of taste and smell, and the digestion of food, among many other things, all come from the complex functions of the nervous system.
Our nervous system is divided into two very different branches. The first is when we are relaxed; also known as our parasympathetic nervous system. When in this state, our bodies are much better able to digest food and engage in other restoring activities such as restful sleep. The other branch is our fight or flight mode; also known as the sympathetic nervous system. This is when we feel stressed, uptight, tense, and experience negative emotions.
When our sympathetic nervous system becomes a constant, like when we are chronically stressed, a heck of a lot of weird stuff and stress-related diseases can start to pop up including but not limited to:
• Chronic Insomnia
• Cold sores
• Frequent colds and flu
• Too much acidity in the body
• Chronic Fatigue
• Digestive issues
How Can Herbs Help With Stress Relief?
There are so many herbs out there that can help support and nourish the nervous system back to health, and today, I’m going to share with you some of my favorites.
There are basically 3 types of herbs to consider when learning how to relieve stress in the body. The first are adaptogenic herbs. These herbs allow your body to react to stress in the best way possible. So instead of freaking out, you look at situations in a much healthier and constructive way.
Adaptogenic herbs take time to work, hence the term “adaptogen”. For most of them, it can take at least 30 days to notice a difference in the way you feel during stressful situations. But don’t fret! Once you’ve passed the 4-week mark, it can only get better from there! And believe me, it gets way better.
Not all adaptogens will work the same for everyone though. This is due to “herbal energetics” which I will write about another post. For now, just know that herbs work differently for different people, especially for those with cold or hot constitutions.
Here are some herbs that work well for most with a cool or cold constitution. (cold hands and feet, gets cold easily, usually pale)
Here are herbs that work best for people with warm or hot constitutions (Hands and feet are always warm, gets hot easily, ruddier complexions):
Since I run cold, my personal favorite is holy basil, a fantastic adaptogen that can be taken for extended periods of time. You can take holy basil as a tea, tincture, capsule, or soft gel. I find that the tincture is most effective, followed by softgels and tea. Take the dose recommended on the label.
I make my own Holy Basil tincture at home and it’s very effective at relieving stress due to overwork and not getting enough rest and even stress over finals at school. It takes a few weeks to feel full results, but totally worth it.
Another favorite is ashwagandha. This herb has been amazing for helping me keep my mind in a happier place. I tend to suffer from occasional depression and this herb has been a total life saver! Not only does it promote positive emotions, it is also an excellent female hormone balancer, something that has been especially nice leading up to my menstrual cycle.
I will often add powdered ashwagandha to my shakes and smoothies.
The second type of herbs for relieving stress are called relaxing nervines. These herbs are calming and sometimes sedative, promoting restful sleep or relief from stressful situations.
Relaxing Nervine herbs include:
• Valerian (highly sedative)
• California Poppy (highly sedative)
• Scullcap (calming, lowers rapid heart rate)
• Chamomile(calming and sedative)
• Passion Flower (stops mental chatter and cyclical destructive thinking)
• Lavender(calming and stress relieving)
• St. John’S Wort (relieves depression)
• Kava Kava (calming and sedative)
• Lemon Balm (calming and sedative)
My favorite nervine is kava kava root. It works quickly and calms even the worst mood. I take it as a tincture when I need stress relief fast and as a tea (with coconut milk or coconut oil because kava kava is fat soluble) in the evenings when I need to decompress and relax. Kava kava is energetically hot, so if you already run hot, it may not work well for you. I would use lavender or lemon balm instead as a tea or tincture.
The third type of herbs to use for relieving stress are nutritive herbs. It’s important to supply your body with nutrient dense herbs during times of stress as they help rebuild and support the nervous system.
Nutritive herbs include:
My favorite nutritive herb is stinging nettle because of its miraculous medicinal uses as well as its highly nutritive blood building qualities as it’s rich in iron and other minerals.
I take stinging nettle as an herbal infusion (nettles steeped overnight in my French tea press) daily to deeply nourish and support my nervous system. During times of stress, these extra nutrients and minerals will help the nervous system heal more sufficiently, especially when chronic stress has depleted most of the supportive nutrition it needs to rebuild.
If you can’t stand nettle’s grassy notes as a tea, I recommend trying dandelion (even roasted dandelion root) as another great alternative.
Using these three types of herbs will really help you overcome and adapt to stressful situations. I hope you give them a try!
What have been your best herbs for stress relief?
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